"Coal mining is re-emerging here in Illinois," Blagojevich said. "As
we bring more mines back to life, we have to make sure that the men
and women who go underground every day are safe and secure."
2004 and 2005 were fatality-free in Illinois' coal and aggregate
mines, marking the first time in state history that Illinois has
gone two consecutive years without a fatality. The current
statistical year, ending in April, also has been fatality-free.
"We've been fortunate that we haven't had a serious mining
incident in Illinois," said Rep. Dan Reitz, D-Sparta. "But given the
tragic circumstances of the West Virginia accidents, it's time to
update our laws."
"It is imperative that we do everything in our power to ensure
the safety of Illinois miners," said Sen. Deanna Demuzio,
D-Carlinville. "This legislation provides common-sense actions such
as requiring lifelines in our mines to make sure that miners can
find their way to the surface even if their vision is impaired from
an accident. We should do all that we can to ensure that all of
Illinois' miners return home to their families each night."
"In light of the tragedies that have hit coal mining families in
West Virginia and Kentucky, we need to double our efforts to protect
those who make their living going underground to mine coal," said
Sen. Gary Forby, D-Benton. "Updating mine rescue stations, like the
ones in Benton and Harrisburg, using transponders to locate trapped
miners and ensuring there are extra supplies of oxygen available in
case of an emergency will give our miners a better chance at
surviving an accident. These efforts will go a long way in making
sure they leave their job safe and secure at the end of the day."
The new legislation includes the following provisions:
self-rescuers, or SCSRs: SCSRs are designed to supply an
individual with one hour of oxygen for use in an emergency
situation and are currently required by federal regulation to be
available to miners. While SCSRs can provide some protection,
more than an hour of travel would be required to reach the
surface of many of Illinois' mines. Therefore, the governor is
proposing not only that every miner be required to wear an SCSR
while underground, but also that caches of SCSRs be placed
throughout the mine for use during a longer escape.
communication and tracking system: The new legislation would
require the installation of a wireless communication device
capable of receiving emergency communications from the surface
to any location throughout a mine. Mine operators would be
required to install in or around the mine any and all equipment
necessary to transmit emergency communications. In addition, the
governor is proposing a tracking system to provide real-time
monitoring of the physical location of each person underground.
Operators would be required to install the wireless tracking
equipment necessary for such monitoring and to provide every
miner with a tracking device to be worn while underground.
stations: Illinois currently operates mine rescue stations in
Springfield, Benton, Harrisburg and Sparta. However, only two of
those stations are certified by the U.S. Mine Safety and Health
Administration. Additionally, the state has agreements with all
the underground mines to provide personnel to staff the
stations, but there are no stipulations on how many people each
company must provide. The new legislation would mandate
reasonable participation in mine rescue teams by coal companies,
as well as require certification of all mine rescue stations.
Lifelines and tag
lines: State law already requires that each mine have two
different ways of exiting a mine in the event of an emergency,
each marked with reflectors. However, these reflectors can be
impossible to locate in the event of a fire. To ensure that all
miners can escape quickly, this provision would require
lifelines along the escape routes. The lifelines would be
required to have cones indicating the direction to the surface.
Miners would be able to hold the lifeline and find their way to
the surface, avoiding any disorientation due to impaired
visibility. It would also require tag lines, which miners, in
the event of an emergency, would be required to use. The tag
lines would connect a group of miners together, preventing
individual miners from becoming lost.
Return entry to
aid in egress: In addition to the two escape routes mandated by
state law, every mine has a third passageway that is used as a
return. The new legislation
would require that the return entry
be marked with reflectors or other signage to give a clear
indication of an alternative path to the surface in the event
the mandated escape routes are blocked.
[to top of second column]
workers: While mine operators must maintain a vehicle suitable
to transport sick or injured workers, transportation is not
mandated in any other circumstance. Therefore, an entire unit or
group of miners could be left without mechanical transportation
for a distance of many miles underground. In most instances,
this distance would far exceed a miner's ability to walk out of
a mine while using an SCSR. In order to remedy this situation,
the governor's proposal mandates that mechanical transportation
be available on each working section of a mine and that this
transportation be of adequate size to transport to the surface
all miners working in the section.
independent contractors: Illinois mining operations routinely
use contractors for specialized projects or to assist the
regular work force. Unlike the mining work force, contractors
are not certified by the state and may not have received
adequate training. This legislation would require anyone working
in or around Illinois mines to complete health and safety
training on an annual basis with an approved state of Illinois
supervisor: The new legislation would amend the Coal Mining Act
to require that individuals who supervise underground mine
surface facilities, coal preparation plants and independent
contractors engaged in the construction, demolition or
dismantling of facilities obtain competency certification from
the Office of Mines and Minerals.
extraction: In order to ensure the safety of miners, the
legislation would prohibit methane extraction from sealed areas
of active mines, as well as from abandoned mines that are
attached to active workings.
"This legislation would ensure that Illinois continues to be a
leader in mines safety," said Joe Angleton, director of the Office
of Mines and Minerals. "By introducing this bill, Governor
Blagojevich, Representative Reitz, and Senators Forby and Demuzio
have demonstrated Illinois' commitment to its coal miners and the
important job they do."
Illinois coal miner safety is the No. 1 priority of the state
Office of Mines and Minerals. State law requires that a mine be
inspected once a month; however, state mine inspectors often visit
mining operations with more frequency to ensure compliance. Routine
inspections of coal mines include checking for proper ventilation
and hazardous conditions underground and on the surface of a mine,
ensuring roof and rib control procedures are being followed, and
making sure miners are working safely and properly.
Three new mines are expected to come on line in Illinois in 2006
-- further evidence that the coal industry is making a comeback in
Illinois. The industry began to decline in the 1990s, after tougher
federal sulfur emission standards were put in place. Since then,
advances in clean-coal technology have made it possible to burn
Illinois coal and still meet the strictest air-quality standards in
Illinois now has the most aggressive package of incentives in the
nation to spur clean-coal-fueled power plant development and provide
other support for the Illinois coal industry. In July 2003,
Blagojevich signed a law that added $300 million in revenue bonds to
the Coal Revival Program, which provides major tax and financing
incentives to large clean-coal-fueled projects.
Since 2003, the state has invested $64.7 million in coal
development projects, including the Peabody Energy Electric Prairie
State project in Washington County and the Taylorville Energy
Center, a coal gasification project in Christian County. Also
included is more than $45 million in grants to Illinois coal
operators who upgrade their facilities to make their product more
competitive, as well as more than $11 million for advanced research
through the Illinois Clean Coal Institute.
Blagojevich also has led an effort with the Illinois
congressional delegation to tout Illinois' advantages as a site for
the U.S. Department of Energy's proposed FutureGen project, which
will demonstrate making electric power and hydrogen fuel from coal
with near-zero harmful emissions. The project site is expected to be
chosen within the next year.
In the 1980s, Illinois employed over 18,000 coal miners,
producing more than 60 million tons of coal per year. Today, despite
a 77 percent reduction in work force, Illinois coal companies still
produce 32 million tons of coal annually, with production up nearly
10 percent in the past two years.
Over 50 percent of all electricity used in the United States
comes from coal, and Illinois' supply is among the most abundant in
the world. "At our current production level, which is more on a
tons-per-man basis than ever, we have enough coal in Illinois to
meet the energy needs of the entire nation for the next 200 years,"
In terms of energy value, Illinois coal has more BTUs, or British
thermal units, than the oil supplies of Saudi Arabia and Kuwait
[News release from the governor's